Whatever happened to …

… those summer jobs?

Last week, it was fun to think about the summer job of running a lemonade stand. But, it did get me thinking.

We hear so often about how technology is going to remove jobs from society. It’s certainly an important concern for adults. But, how about for kids?

I started thinking about some summer jobs that I had as a kid that may well be not available for today’s kids.

Picking Stones

This truly was hard work. There was a local farmer who had a field where somehow large stones managed to work their way to the surface every spring. How do you deal with it? Certainly, it had to be done before getting on the field planting because big stones could damage the plough. Solution? Hire kids to follow a wagon around the field picking up stones as you find them. I recall that there were also some big ones that needed two or three people to lift them. Then, once the wagon was full, we got a free ride to the “stone pile” where we unloaded them. Today, there’s a device known as a stone picker that has replaced that back breaking job.

Picking Weeds

Same farmer. It was probably a move to save money but towards the end of August, it wasn’t uncommon to not be able to see the white beans because they were overgrown by rag weed, chickory, thistles, and something called Queen’s Anne Lace. We’d walk the rows, pulling, and laying the weeds down between the rows when we were done. Picking the weeds was just part of the torture. At the end of the day, your hands looked like you were wearing dirt gloves. Cleaning them was not a quick and easy activity. These days, of course, we know of weed killing chemicals that can be sprayed on fields and some seeds come already treated with weed killer.

Picking Cucumbers

This was truly back breaking work. My dad had leased 1/4 acre and we planted cucumbers. Work started early in the plant growth and it was important to train the cucumbers to grow in rows. Their natural tendency is to grow in clumps. We’d be out there to help them all grow in one direction. Then, the cucumbers would grow! Early in the picking process was painful because of the spikes that grow on cucumbers. But, after a while, your hands would get covered in dirt that again, worked like gloves. Picking was a routine – you’d roll the plant to the left and pick, to the right and pick, then place it down and dig through the centre for what you missed otherwise.


Photo Credit: mariasherow Flickr via Compfight cc

We’d put them in 11 quart baskets and relief was given when you got to take the basket to the big burlap bags and dump them. That was the only time you could stand up. Once done, we’d take the bags into the train station where Bick’s graded them from 1-6. Ones were what we call gherkins in the pickle business. They were very small but paid the most. It took a lot of picking to get a significant amount. Sixes were the great big ones that Bick’s would make into relish. The sweet spot seemed to be threes and fours. Your bag was dumped onto this big machine that shook them around, falling into the appropriate sizes. These days, automation has made the process far less back breaking. Instructions like this are nice for the home gardener. They have no lure when you grow them by the acre.

Yep, I did a lot of picking as a kid!

Your thoughts, via comment, please.

  • Did you ever have any of the above jobs in your youth?
  • Did you have a job as you were growing up that no longer exists or has been replaced/modified by technology?
  • Do you like cucumbers? To this date, I just can’t eat raw cucumbers. Blech. But, I do enjoy a good dill pickle.

This is part of a regular Sunday series of posts. You can check them all out here.

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

2 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …”

  1. Growing up on a farm, I had all of those jobs and I swear I started working in the fields shortly after I learned to walk. My brother and I hoed beans, picked up stones, picked cucumbers and drove tractor. Our pay, according to my dad, was that we had a roof over our head and could pull our knees up under the table for dinner. I was so excited to get my first ‘real’ job detasseling corn for Pioneer when I was 14 years old. It paid $2/hr; $3 on Sundays. Spending time on the bus and in the fields with a whole busload of high school girls was like a paid holiday compared to working on our own for my dad! I also worked at a restaurant washing dishes and bussing tables. I think everyone should work in the service industry and in retail for at least one summer, just to appreciate how hard those jobs can be.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s good advice, Lisa, but many students don’t have the opportunity to work on farms. I do remember so many stories about detasseling from my high school students. It’s a big deal in Essex and Kent counties. I’d never heard of it until I moved down here. That just wasn’t a thing where I grew up.


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